Former Cat Meilinger named to Hall of Fame

Steve Meilinger

Steve Meilinger, a two-time All-American at UK under Paul "Bear" Bryant, was named to the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation announced Tuesday.

Steve Meilinger, a two-time All-American at UK under Paul "Bear" Bryant, was named to the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation announced Tuesday.

Meilinger played at Kentucky from 1951-53, helping the Wildcats to a record of 20-10-3. The 1951 season included an 8-4 mark capped by a Cotton Bowl win over Texas Christian.

Known as "Mr. Anywhere" for the Wildcats, Meilinger split time between end, halfback and quarterback on offense; on defense, he played end, linebacker and defensive back. On special teams, he was a two-year starting punter and also returned punts and returned kickoffs.

Meilinger set Kentucky's career records for pass receptions, receiving yardage and touchdowns with 75 catches for 1,210 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also rushed 134 times for 714 yards and five TDs and passed for 127 yards and a TD. On defense, no tackle stats were kept during that era, but he recorded six pass interceptions.

He was a three-time All-SEC first-team selection, one of only five players in program history to earn that distinction.

Meilinger played under Bryant, a College Football Hall of Famer, and was teammates with two Hall of Famers in quarterback Vito "Babe" Parilli and tackle Bob Gain.

Following his senior season, Meilinger played in four postseason contests -- the Coaches All-America Game, College All-Star Game, East-West Shrine Game and Hula Bowl. He was a first-round selection in the 1954 NFL Draft, but went into the U.S. Army and spent two years as a tank commander in the 100th Tank Battalion of the 1st Armored Division.

After missing two years of football because of military service, he returned to the gridiron in 1956 and spent six years in the NFL – 1956 and 1957 with Washington, 1958-60 for the Green Bay Packers and 1961 with the Pittsburgh Steelers – before injuries ended his career. In 1960, he played in the NFL Championship Game under Coach Vince Lombardi. His career stats include 60 catches for 863 yards and eight touchdowns.

Upon completion of his football career, Meilinger became a United States Marshal. He was one of the original six marshals who founded the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program and eventually became Chief Deputy of the Eastern District of Kentucky. After retiring as a marshal, he became a Property Valuation Officer for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Originally from Bethlehem, Pa., Meilinger resides in Lexington with his wife Eileen and continues to support his alma mater.

Additional Wildcats in the College Football Hall of Fame include: Gain (1947-50), Parilli (1949-51), Coach Bryant (1946-53), tackle Lou Michaels (1955-57) and Jerry Claiborne, who played at UK in 1946, '48-49 and was head coach of the Cats from 1982-89. Bernie Shively, who was athletic director at UK from 1938-67 and head coach of the Cats in 1945, was inducted to the Hall of Fame in recognition of his playing days at Illinois.

Meilinger will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on Dec. 10 in New York City during the National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner. He also will honored during an enshrinement festival at the Hall of Fame in the summer of 2014.

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